As Ianto walked back into the main part of the Hub after a hard morning's work in the archive, he realized that he could hear a clock ticking. Whilst this was not a particularly extraordinary thing in its own right – a ticking clock – it didn't take long for him to register two things:
1) They didn't actually have a clock in the Hub that ticked.
2) This clock was ticking exactly once every two seconds.
"BOMB!" he yelled, diving under the nearest table, shielding his head with his arms, waiting for the explosion. He stayed like that for a couple of seconds, then peeped out with a mixture of trepidation and confusion.
The others, apart from jumping out of their skins when Ianto shouted, paid no attention and carried on doing what they'd been doing as if nothing had happened.
Ianto crawled out from under the table on all fours, with a look of sheer panic distressing his handsome features. Owen, who was nearest, offered a friendly hand and Ianto took it. Owen hauled him up and then sat him down on the couch.
"It's OK, mate, take it easy. There's no bomb." Owen hadn't let go of his hand and Ianto realized that Owen was taking his pulse.
Owen could tell that Ianto was losing the struggle to control his breathing. He was on the verge of hyperventilating. "It's OK, everything's going to be OK," Owen said soothingly. "I need you to breathe gently for me; you've got to stop gulping air. Take a long shallow breath when I tell you to. Breathe now. One, two…great, you're doing great…three. And hold it. Now breathe out slowly. One, two, three, four, five, six. Wonderful. Now let's do it again."
During the second breath, Owen realized that he was encouraging Ianto to breathe in time with the ticking sound that was still echoing around the Hub. He shook his head slightly in disbelief, but carried on using the sounds as a metronome by which to time Ianto's inhalations and exhalations. "OK, you're OK. Everything's fine. There, are you feeling better now?"
Ianto nodded gratefully. "Yeah, thanks, Owen." After the doctor's help to control his breathing, his adrenaline levels subsided. He suddenly realized that he could still hear the rhythmic ticking sound. "So, what's that ticking noise?" he asked, finally calm again.
"It's not really a ticking, you know," said Tosh tersely.
"If you listen carefully," added Gwen, "it's more of a popping noise."
"And it's been going on all bloody morning," finished Owen heatedly. "It's driving us absolutely mad. But we can't stop it."
Realisation flooded in.
"Oh God." Ianto groaned. "I thought we'd completely purged it from the Hub. Where the hell did Jack find bubblewrap?"
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